COVID-19 and the courts: April 1 update

Today's update for courthouses across Canada

COVID-19 and the courts: April 1 update

Courts across Canada are taking extraordinary measures to control the spread of the new coronavirus COVID-19. Below is a roundup of actions courts are taking across the country.

Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta
Alternative dispute resolution, consent orders and applications to enforce arbitration awards
The court has issued a number of announcements in light of the suspension of all but urgent and emergency hearings. First, the court is encouraging lawyers and the public to make use of alternative dispute resolution procedures such as mediation and arbitration to mitigate delays in family, civil and commercial cases. Second, the court said that, effective Mar. 30, it has started to process all consent orders via email or fax. Third, the court has listed the requirements for contested applications to enforce Arbitration Awards under s. 49 of the Arbitration Act.

Court of Appeal for Ontario
Practice Direction Concerning Criminal Matters Given the Exceptional and Evolving Circumstances Concerning COVID-19
The court has issued guidelines regarding the application of the rules governing timelines and time extensions for criminal appeals. This practice direction is effective until May 30.

Practice Direction Concerning Extensions of Time in Matters Arising Under the Provincial Offences Act in the Court of Appeal for Ontario
Given that Ontario Regulation 73/20 covers the suspension of timelines, subject to the discretion of the court responsible for the proceeding, for as long as the emergency declared by the government lasts, the Chief Justice of Ontario and President of the Court of Appeal for Ontario provided guidance with regard to which timelines have been suspended and which ones haven’t been suspended. For instance, the suspension of time does not apply to matters under the Provincial Offences Act related to COVID-19, which arise under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, as well as any other matters under the Provincial Offences Act related to public health and safety in the context of COVID-19.

Nova Scotia
Provincial Court of Nova Scotia and Youth Justice Court
COVID-19: Notice to counsel and the public re: matters in the Provincial Court and Youth Justice Court
This directive consolidates previously announced measures in light of COVID-19. The updated notice covers matters such as access to courthouses, access to files, bail hearings, warrants, judicial authorizations, summary offence fines and default convictions.

COVID-19: Surety declarations under s. 515.1 of the Criminal Code
To reduce the number of people present in the courthouses and to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the court has adopted new procedures applicable to consent release orders with a surety under s. 515.1 of the Criminal Code. The court also discussed alternative ways to execute the required documents under s. 515.1, such as the electronic signing of PDF documents.

COVID-19: Provincial Court process for individuals in police custody
Effective immediately, releases and remands of persons in police custody are conducted through the Justice of the Peace Centre via telephone call. During daytime hours, bail matters are also heard via telephone call, while after 9 p.m., such matters will be done via the tele-bail system. Bail matters will be dealt with using a separate phone number, while all other after-hour emergency matters will be dealt with using the regular phone number of the Justice of the Peace Centre. Persons who are released will be directed to return to the Provincial Court on a date after May 31, while those who are remanded to correctional facilities will utilize video conferencing for their next court appearances.

COVID-19: Consent variation procedure for release orders and probation orders — Provincial Court and Youth Justice Court
Effective immediately, the court is adopting a new procedure applicable to the consent variation of release conditions for persons who have been released either by the court or by the police or for variation of probation conditions. The steps for the procedure are enumerated in the notice. The court also mentioned that staff at Nova Scotia Legal Aid will be available to help those who require urgent changes to their undertaking, recognizance or release order.

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